HARARE, April 1 The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) ha stated that it does not have the required equipment needed to search for gold from suspected smugglers, raising fears that large amounts of gold are being smuggled out of the country.

The head of the ZRP Minerals and Border Control Unit, Senior Assistant Commissioner Silence Pondo told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy here Monday that the police were inadequately funded to the extent that it could not even train its staff.

“We have challenges like inadequate funding which result in depleted and unreliable transport, shortage of essential gadgets like metal detectors, scanners, polygraph machines and finger printing machines,” he added.

Pondo said mineral finger printing machines were critical in any country which was into mining as they enabled thoroughness when searching for gold. “These machines will be able to detect the the gold. The unit is unable to carry out adequate training of its officers because of (lack of) funding,” he said.

He said funding was also needed to purchase weighbridges for installation at border points so that all exports could be weighed. “For now we only act on information we get from miners and intelligence because we do not have machines,” he added.

Pondo said the operations of the unit could improve if it could benefit from mineral royalties which miners were remitting to the government. “We can be funded from that money. We are suggesting that, if we arrest an illegal gold dealer with gold, let us be allowed to retain a certain percentage so that we will be able to go back to the field,” he said.

Legislators, however, raised concern over the lavish lifestyles of officers working in the ZRP Minerals and Border Control Unit. They also questioned why no police officer had been arrested after confiscating gold and other minerals from suspects, something which illegal miners had told the Committee was happening.

But Pondo defended the officers saying the department from time to time conducted audits of the officers’ lifestyles and assets. “We continuously monitor our officers by carrying out lifestyle audits,” he said.